Still partly inflated, a bunch of balloons floated on the surface of the Sargasso Sea east of Bermuda, a silent reminder of a distant celebration.
The Le Roux family of Ormond Beach eased their sloop toward the pink and blue flotsam so 17-year-old Alex could snag it with a boat hook and haul it aboard.
It was just the kind of “souvenir” Alex’s younger brother, Eloi, was hoping to find on his family’s seven-week voyage across the Atlantic from Ponce Inlet to Portugal.
The balloons and other trash Eloi collected, including tiny particles of plastic and large buoys trailing shell-encrusted rope, came from what scientists have come to call the “Atlantic Garbage Patch” between Bermuda and the Azores Islands.
Research teams that have collected samples from the area over the last 20 years reported on the phenomenon last year at an ocean sciences conference — something that caught Eloi’s attention as his family prepared for the voyage that was two years in the planning.
Seeking evidence to support his campaign to combat ocean pollution, Eloi rigged up six 120-pound-test fishing lines to trail from the sailboat at different depths to collect whatever might be floating on or in the water.
“The ocean is downstream to everything,” said Eloi, adding the answer to reducing pollution is to take more care in disposing of items that aren’t biodegradable.
He and his family packed carefully for their voyage, avoiding items wrapped in plastic and choosing paper products like plates over the plastic variety whenever possible.
Eloi also printed up fliers to post at marinas along the way and talked to fellow boaters about the issue at every opportunity, discouraging them from ever throwing trash overboard. He plans to build a science fair project around his summer experiences to spread information to another audience.
Eloi’s parents, Michel and Thanda, aren’t surprised by the 16-year-old’s tenacity in tackling the ocean pollution issue.
For the complete story, go to www.news-journalonline.com.